Energy Conversion Devices and Enfinity are going to collaborate on a 10MW portfolio of rooftop solar installations in Ontario, Canada. They made the announcement in February and they are currently developing the plan. ECD (Energy Conversion Devices) will provide it’s new PowerTilt product and will combine this with UNI-SOLAR photovoltaic laminates. They will present this through United Solar Ovonic, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of ECD. On it’s part, Enfinity will lead the rooftop acquisition and will arrange construction debt and take-out equity financing for the projects. Enfinity is based in Ottawa. After completion of the project and it is in commercial operation, the projects portfolio will be sold to the permanent equity owners. This might be a sweet deal.

ECD’s PowerTilt product can be installed on any roof type, is very light weight and has higher energy production. This project will be on many different roofing materials so this makes the PowerTilt product the best choice. On the business end, ECD will also provide development equity during the construction phase of the projects.

This project is being done under Ontarios’ new feed-in-tariff program. The companies expect to complete construction of approximately 10MW of projects during calendar 2010.

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This is one of the coolest green initiatives I’ve seen so far. And I do a lot of looking. Anyways, this is an affordable housing project in Oakland, California located at Central Station. It is called Ironhorse and it provides 99 apartments for families earning up to 50 percent of area median income. This means low income families or people who are just earning less because of this economic mess we’re living with. This project is an exciting reintegration of about 29 acres of unused industrial land into the surrounding residential neighborhood. So here it is not only good for the economy, it is also conserving wasted land! Already it has 2 stars.

But there are other “green” elements in this project as well. The construction of the units incorporated many “green” or sustainable materials and techniques, such as photoelectric energy generation and a vegetated green roof. This means practically no electric expense and a carbon footprint close to the smallest possible today. I love the vegetated green roof concept and wish I could do it where I am but I rent and the landlord wouldn’t let me. This lovely complex at Ironhorse has been given a GreenPoint Showcase Award for Achievement in Multi-Family Housing by Build it GREEN. All of this great stuff brings it up to 3 stars in my book.

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In October of 2009, Dow Chemical unveiled its line of Dow Powerhouse Solar Shingles, revolutionary photovoltaic solar panels in the form of solar shingles. These shingles can be integrated into rooftops with standard asphalt shingle materials. The innovative product design reduces installation costs because the conventional roofing shingles and solar generating shingles are installed simultaneously by roofing contractors. This is the biggest forward leap that anyone has made in producing solar roofing materials that can be utilized easily. This will ultimately hold down labor and time related costs as well as the cost of materials.

These solar shingle systems are going to be available in limited quantities sometime this year and are projected to be more widely available as soon as 2011. This new products puts the power of solar electricity generation into the hands of homeowners at a reasonable cost and without a lot of specialized labor. This product is the result of groundbreaking technology from Dow Solar and integrates low-cost, thin-film CIGS photovoltaic cells into a proprietary roofing shingle design, making it useable by standard current roofing companies. This integrated shingle is, literally, a multi-functional solar energy generating roofing product.

The way this innovative product design reduces installation costs is through the integration of the standard shingles and the solar panels. This allows conventional roofing shingles and solar generating shingles to be installed simultaneously by roofing contractors. Dow Solar (DSS) expects an enthusiastic response from roofing contractors since no specialized skills or knowledge of solar array installations are required. As I already said, this is a huge step forward in making solar panels accessible as they have always required specialized knowledge, informed installation and intensive labor and time invested, which drove the cost up over the average homeowners budget.

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In Florida, 12 waste-to-energy facilities from Miami to Panama City process nearly 20,000 tons of municipal solid waste each day while continuously producing over 500 megawatts of clean, renewable power. This amount of waste is enough to fill a football stadium, imagine that! The Tampa Bay area is home to four waste-to-energy facilities, located in the City of Tampa and in the counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco. Without these facilities, local governments would be faced with the daunting task of siting large landfills near rapidly growing residential communities. The issue of this development is another problem to be addressed in a different forum but there is no doubt that this landfill to energy idea is a good one.

I first heard about this idea several years ago when a small county northwest of where I reside started pumping landfill gas through pipes and converting it to energy. In fact, I later heard a follow up that claimed the entire city was running on this power alone. Amazing. Not only is this greenie meanie but it’s cheap, too. These waste-to-energy projects eliminate 90% of the waste that might have ended up in a landfill. But it isn’t nearly enough, as you can imagine, because landfills throughout the state are reaching capacity faster than anticipated. It is becoming increasingly difficult to expand landfills or open new ones as residential development encroaches on once-remote landfill sites. People are already living in homes where they can smell garbage 24/7 in various lower income areas around the state. Florida’s current population of over 17 million is expected to reach almost 23 million by the year 2020, bringing even more challenges to managing municipal solid waste.

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A company called “LiveFuels” has announced the start of pilot operations at the company’s test facility in Brownsville, TX. The facility consists of 45 acres of open saltwater ponds and will be used for research on optimizing algal productivity and increasing the rates of conversion of biomass into renewable oils. LiveFuels grows a robust mix of native algae species in low-cost, open-water systems. This is in stark contrast to may other companies who grow singular cultures of algae and often genetically modified strains. As a natural, environmentally friendly business, LiveFuels harvests the algae by using “algae grazers,” which includes such natural harvesters as filter-feeding fish and a variety of other aquatic herbivores. This in place of expensive and energy-intensive mechanical equipment. As a result, these species can easily be processed into renewable oils and many other valuable co-products.

To date, LiveFuels has filed ten U.S. patents for its proprietary approach to growing and harvesting algal biomass. At the Brownsville facility, the company will conduct research on optimizing the productivity of natural aquatic ecosystems through biological and environmental conditions. The results will be used for an expansion to full-scale commercial operations along the coast of Louisiana. And all of this is being done in this revolutionary, environmentally friendly fashion. Kudos. to LiveFuels.

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Many of us have experienced the frustration of having a cell phone or MP3 player go dead and being away from a power outlet to charge the batteries. Actually, this isn’t a solely current problem, either, as I recall listening to “dragging” cassette players and static hazed radios many years ago, when I used battery chargers and rechargeable batteries. Being caught on a 10 mile hike with a dead radio is a big drag. This is where portable solar is making big inroads and offering relief. Even if you’re not a big techno nerd with a boombox on your shoulder or an MP3 plug in your ear, you may have concerns about getting off the grid or just saving money on batteries in general. Even you should consider portable solar. Thanks to technology improvements and lower production costs for photovoltaic (PV) cells, you can now harness sunlight at home or on the road to power a variety of products while reducing your environmental impact at the same time.

PV cells generate varying amounts of electricity based on their size and composition, and on the amount of incoming sunlight. Even so there are a lot of products for which sunlight provides a viable and affordable alternative power source and these are already available on the market. If you haven’t purchased one yet or maybe even haven’t even shopped these items, here is a brief list of what I found available today:

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Better Place, an electric car company just starting to really expand, is developing a $200-250 million network in Hawaii, with 50,000 to 100,000 electric-car recharging stations to be in place by 2012. The $100 million project comes as a three-part effort to radically overhaul the state’s energy diet. Hawaii has an “extreme oil addiction,” according to Gov. Linda Lingle. Ninety percent of her state’s energy comes from imported oil, costing about $7 billion a year. A third of that oil makes its way into automobile tanks as gasoline. With gas on the islands still hovering around $2.65, Hawaiians spend more money on their cars (taxes, insurance, and fuel) than Americans on average in any other state.

Shai Agassi, founder and chief executive of privately owned Better Place, said the cost is an estimated “ballpark” range and that investors have yet to be lined up for the all-island project. Better Place has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hawaiian Electric Companies. Power spots will be first to pop up all over the island, including parking lot locations and stations in the downtown areas.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Under the plan, consumers would buy or lease electric cars, and Better Place would supply recharging services and batteries. Consumers would have a choice of buying mileage plans — which would include recharging services and battery swaps — or being guests on the network and paying for each battery charge”.

The company will continue to work with automakers to design electric cars that fit Hawaii’s driving and traffic patterns. They are saying that Nissan-Renault has already signed on to make vehicles compatible with the proposed network. The other automakers may soon join in. The clever upstart plans to offer electric transportation as a service with drivers paying to access a network of charging stations, much in the same way they pay for access to mobile phone service. Better Place has been selected as one of the “Fifty Best Tech Startups” by Business Week.

Nissan-Renault has said they will build the electric cars, and mass market availability in Hawaii is expected in 2012. According the map on their website, the company is now operating in the United States, Israel, Denmark, Australia and Japan. Find out more about Better Place here.

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